Portions of a Fort Worth police policy the city is fighting to keep private can be seen in lawsuits against the city.
The fragments spell out when Fort Worth police can initiate a car chase, and what considerations officers need to take into account. The lawsuits are from 2020 and 2023, and show portions of the policy from 2019 and 2021.
The 2020 lawsuit involves a wrongful death claim against the city filed after a 2018 pursuit left a woman dead when a suspect fleeing police crashed into her car at North Main Street and Exchange Street.
The 2023 lawsuit involves injury claims after a fleeing suspect slammed into a car at the intersection of Yucca Avenue and North Riverside Drive in August 2022.
It’s not clear if the 2021 policy fragment is the most current version of the policy. Representatives for the Fort Worth Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Star-Telegram.
According to the 2021 policy, officers must determine whether a pursuit will result in greater harm than letting the suspect go, and whether there’s another way to catch the suspect besides chasing them down in a police car or motorcycle.
Officers must also turn on their lights and sirens from the moment they initiate a pursuit, according to the 2023 lawsuit.
The 2019 policy goes into more detail about what considerations an officer should take before starting a pursuit. This includes road and weather conditions, traffic, population density and the seriousness of the offense.
Officers are still required to operate their vehicles safely, but “may drive contrary to normal traffic regulations during a pursuit,” with the exception of driving into oncoming traffic, according to the 2019 policy.
Both policies note that all pursuits must be recorded on police dash camera and in an after action report.
The Fort Worth City Council voted Jan. 23 to approve a lawsuit against the state Attorney General’s office to prevent the policy’s release after requests from several North Texas news outlets, including the Star-Telegram.
On Monday, the Fort Worth Police Department released dash cam footage showing a car chase in the West 7th entertainment district that resulted in two pedestrians getting hit and severely injured.
Of the 10 largest cities in Texas, Fort Worth is the only one that doesn’t publicize its vehicle pursuit policy.
Fort Worth has an informational copy of its general orders online, however several sections are left out, including the vehicle pursuit policy.
Representatives for the city and the police department have argued that publicizing the full policy would put the public in danger.